by Deborah Franklin
Dr. Zibin Guo leads a tame version of wheelchair tai chi in Beijing, but he envisions a more competitive version someday /University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
Wheelchair athletes have been racing the pavement -- and basketball, rugby, and tennis courts -- for years. NPR's Joe Shapiro says that when you spend a little time with these jocks, as he has for a number of stories, your image of life in the chair changes fast.
"Think about what it takes to propel a manual wheelchair around all day," Shapiro says. "A gym membership and hours of dumbbell curls couldn't get you a ripped body any better."
Recently we learned of a slightly less murderous variation on that theme out of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
Zibin Guo, a UTC anthropologist, has adapted the martial art for people in wheelchairs, as a gentle, self-paced form of exercise that can get even the very sick and recently injured moving.
In a tiny pilot study of his concept at UTC, elderly survivors of stroke and people with multiple sclerosis liked the program.
Guo says there's also a place for a jock version of the sport. He's organizing an annual national competition with Chinese Paralympics officials in Beijing.